The Heart Cleaner

When everyone abandoned me, little did I know that a 70-year-old house cleaner from Cuba, would be my earth angel.

I was so weak that I could barely get out of bed. The house was becoming as messy as the anger that was brewing in my heart. It wasn’t fair. I had so much life in me. Yet, here I was, unable to mop up my own floor. It was time to hire a house cleaner.

The knock at the door was unremarkable. When I looked through the peephole, all I saw was the top of a grey-haired lady’s head. I opened the door. Standing there was an older woman who was hunched over, carrying a long stick that looked like an odd croquet mallet. My first impression was that she looked like the old lady in Snow White. Luckily, she did not come bearing a juicy red apple. Instead, she laughed with the laugh of a young girl.

“I’m Tata,” she said, with a Spanish lilt to her voice. My heart stirred.

Tata entered my home as if it was her own. I watched in wonder as this elderly woman moved the couches as if she was bench pressing weights. She took such pride as she cleaned every nook and cranny. To Tata, cleanliness was truly a sign of godliness. And the laugh. That laugh. It filled my condo with the life that had been waning out of my body.

I hired Tata to come once a week. Each week, the day she came to clean the house became the day that I felt a little brighter. Most of the time, I was in bed. My laughing angel would come into my room, take my blanket and put it in the dryer. Then she would bring it back while saying, “Caliente, Momma. Here’s a hot blanket.” Gently, Tata would put it up to my shoulders and then brush my hair out of my eyes.

Instinctively, Tata must have known that the warmth of the blanket was the best medicine in the world. Soon, she was putting my socks in the dryer and I got both hot blankets and hot socks. She would clean the house, then come into my bedroom and wash away the tears from my eyes.

I soon learned that the long stick that looked like a mallet was a makeshift mop. Tata would take clean towels and put them at the end of the stick, then polish the tile floors with them. Two totally different cultures clashed to create order in my life.

Tata could get really angry, too. She was angry at my mother for never visiting. She was angry at my family for not understanding. She was angry at all of the friends who left me as soon as I could no longer do anything to help them. Tata would coo to me, mainly in Spanish; mainly in a language that I couldn’t understand. Her passion for my welfare made me feel safe. It was no wonder that I began to believe that Tata was a living, breathing angel.

Time passed. Our bond strengthened. After three years in bed, a brilliant doctor discovered that it was a wonder that I was still alive. I had been hemorrhaging because of a fibroid tumor hidden behind my uterus. A litany of doctors had given me the wrong diagnosis – always dire. I marveled that my gynecologist could have caught this early.

The only thing that was a constant during all this time was Tata. My house cleaner.

Fifteen years have passed since Tata entered my home and my heart. I moved away, so she can no longer clean my condo, although I know she wishes she could. We speak on the phone every week, and every week we say the same thing.

“I love you too mucho, Mommacita,” Tata will say.

“Momma! I love you. Caliente, caliente, caliente,” I’ll say. Even though it would make no sense to anyone else.

When I visit Tata, both of our eyes well up with tears. We hold onto each other so tight that sometime I think we stop breathing and have to catch our breath.

Tata will say, “My sister asks, why you love that lady so mucho?” She’ll shake her head and shrug her shoulders. Her body seems to get tinier and tinier every time I see her.

When I leave, she stands in the driveway, sobbing. The love is so pure and expressed that it almost makes up for all those people who weren’t there for me.

I always thought that I knew who I would be able to count on if times got bad. Now I know that, even when the world crashes around us, the heavens above will send someone for me – someone named Tata, who will be there to guide me back toward hope.

Tata came in the disguise of a house cleaner, but what she really did was to clean up my heart.

Deborah Weed

About the Author | Deborah Weed

Deborah Weed is a self-described catalyst for change. She is a speaker + producer + writer + artist. Her mission is to show people how to thrive in an ever-changing world.

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